Friday, April 28, 2017

The Skrydstrupgirl /Skrydstruppigen

The Skrydstrupgirl at exhibition, National Museum.
After being buried in her coffin completely undisturbed in her grave hill for more than 3000 years the grave with the Skrydstrupgirl was found and opened in 1935.
The expectations were not great, the hill had been digged earlier, but after some days work it was obvious that this was one of Denmark's most important grave finds from Bronze Age.

The Skrydstrupgirl, National Museum.
Skrydstruppigen is a famous Danish grave find from Bronze Age. The Skrydstrupgirl was excavated in 1935 at the village Skrydstrup in South Jutland. She lived in ab. 1300 before our time. She was found in a gravehill by the "Hærvejen" 1 km southwest of the town Vojens. Her oakcoffin was placed upon a bed of stones and covered by a turf hill, measuring 13 meter diameter and 1,75 meter high. Two male persons were in similar coffins at the edge of the gravehill. All was covered by a larger turf hill, measuring 24 meter diameter and 4 m high.

The Cap, National Museum
At her death the girl was only 17 years old. She was buried in an oakcoffin in the middle of the hill, covered by stones. The oakcoffin was almost dissolved. She lay upon a cowskin, and by her head was a cap made in sprangteknik. (a special made cap for women). She rested upon a layer of sorrel and other plants, which tell us that she was buried in summer. She was buried in her dress: a short-sleeved blouse, made by woven wool with embroideries upon the sleeves and around the neck, a long woolen skirt covered her from waist to feet , belt and shoes; fastened to the belt was a decorated horn comb. Her clothes were wool from dark, redbrown sheep. Her only jewelry was large spiral ear rings in 24 karat gold. She had 60 cm long, ashblonde hair, set in a special hairstyle, which she could not have done without assistance. Over the hair was a fine hairnet of horse's hair. The hairstyle was very difficult to wear and much indicates it might have been some kind of burial hair style. She was 170 cm tall which was rather tall in comparison to her contemporaries at that time.

Example of her hairstyle, wikipedia.
When her hair was arranged it was first combed flat back from the forehead, then a valk (a lump of soft material, evt. filled with human hair) was put over the forehead-hair, and the hair was combed forth above a thin layer. The tips of the hair were divided in some little tufts which were braided in front, forming a  braid across the forehead, and all of it was kept on place with  a woolen string. Over the hair was put a fine hairnet, braided by horse's hair in front and back. It was fastened upon an almost 5 m long woolen string.  The string was twined several times around the head, so it was like a headband, and it kept the hairstyle and the hairnet on its place.

The hairstyle and the goldrings, the oak coffin and the gravehill tell us that the Skrydstrupgirl belonged to a socially rich family. Her teeth witness that she from child had nutrient food. This could be a sign of high social status. The people who lived along "Hærvejen",  had the far away trade with the southern countries in Europe, with fur and amber and with bronze and gold.

The cause of her death is not known. The study of the skeleton did not reveal any kind of disease.
Skrydstrupgirl and Egtvedgirl
Her teeth were in good condition; they had a thick layer of enamel and not the slightest sign of caries. Obviously she had not missed anything in her diet during her upbringing. Her dress and her hair also witness about surplus and at the same time a great concern for the diseased. Her high position in society is underlined by the grave form itself , a gravehill of 13 meter diameter and 1,75 in height demanded lots of ressources to build, and the gathering of about 6000 peats was a common task for the local society.

New Knowledge.

Groundbreaking Danish research shows that the distinguished Skrydstrupgirl who was found in a gravehill in South Jutland in 1935 was not born or grew up in Denmark. The news were revealed in the TV- broadcast "Historien om Danmark" in April 2017. A unique recording in the TV-programme shows the moment in the laboratory when the discovery is obvious. The Skrydstrupgirl came from south of Denmark. This is a discovery which will change the understanding of much material from the Bronze Age, said professor Karin Margarita Frei from the National Museum of Copenhagen, who was the in the head of the examination.

It was also a sensation worldwide in 2015 when another grave find from antiquity revealed , that the iconic Egtvedgirl was not from Denmark, but was born and grew up in the southern Germany. This makes the discovery of the same result for the Skrydstrupgirl even more interesting. The result is important, because it shows that the Egtvedgirl was no special case; it seems to be a pattern, which tell us how humans, and in this case women, travelled and moved around in Bronze Age.

Karin M. Frei was also behind the examination of the Egtvedgirl, but contrary to the Egtvedgirl the examination of the Skrydstrupgirl shows all her life from childhood till death. This is the first time this has happened. Contrary to the Egtvedgirl who did travel several times during her life the Skrydstrupgirl was only out on one travel,  the travel from her birthplace to the region at Skrydstrup. The young woman came to the region at Skrydstrup when she was 13-14 years old, until then she had lived in a place many hundred kilometers away from this neigbourhood. She might have lived in the northern part of the Czech Republic, in France or in Mid Germany. After her arrival to Denmark she lived in South Jutland for almost 4 years before she died, ab.17 years old, around 1300 BC. She moved from south to north, possibly to create an alliance between two powerful families by marriage.
The Skrydstrupgirl's hairstyle /wikipedia

In order to map the ways of the Skrydstrupgirl professor Karin Frei has examined a 6-year tooth, a wisdom tooth, an about 50 centimeter long lock of hair  and some bones. Those things tell about food, upbringing  and geographical location through her life. Her grave has told us that she belonged to the elite of the society both before and when she came to Denmark. Her teeth tell us that she from child had nutritious diet,  which can be a sign of high status.

According to professor of archaeology at Gøteborg University , Kristian Kristiansen, the result has a significant importance for our understanding of Bronze Age. The Skrydstrupgirl emphasizes that Bronze Age was a time of globalization. People went from south to north in connection to marriage, and they went on long trade travels. Now there are scientific proofs that this is the case.

It is strange the Egtvedgirl died young too, there are no sign of disease in the bones and no sign of violence. It seems special that she died that young. Examinations shows that the Skrydstrupgirl was healthy, and the scientists have wondered what might have killed her. It was not possible to see from the bones if she had had any children, and if her death might be because of a childbirth. Much indicates that the Skrydstrupgirl migrated to Denmark when she was 13-14 years of age , an age where women were considered ready to marry in Bronze Age. 


National Museum exhibition:" Danmarks Oldtid." 

Karin Frei and the National Museum continue mapping other grave finds from Bronze Age. The investigation of the Skrydstrupgirl was only the first in a series. By mapping the origin of several Bronze Age women they hope to achieve a deeper insight in Bronze Age. 

The research project named: Bronzealderkvindens fortællinger. (The tales of the Bronze Age women) has its own web site.

The Skrydstrupgirl from ab. 1300 bc , the Egtvedgirl, who was buried in the summer 1370 BC and the other oakcoffin graves with dresses and jewelry are on the exhibition: "Danmarks Oldtid".

The Skrydstrupgirl's  oakcoffin was almost dissolved, only a small part was preserved around her head. At the exhibition she lies in a coffin from another hill, Mølhøj. At Haderslev Museum is a copy of her dress, and a bronze statue of the Skrydstrupgirl is set up in the town Vojens.

Bronze Age House in Thy, North Jutland (wikipedia) 

The Skrydstrupgirl's House.
During  Bronze Age arose in the region of Vojens a wealth center  ab. 1800-1000 bc. This is seen by the building of a number of grave hills and impressive houses. The Skrydstrupgirl's family was one of the strong parts in the building of this center. This period is often named Denmarks first Golden Age.

Much gold ended as grave equipment in the gravehills.  An important explanation  why a wealth center arose just at this place is the geography of the region. Here lies Hærvejen and it was via this road the precious metal came to the north.

In 1993 gravel was extracted in South Jutland. Museum Sønderjylland  examined the area and found several houses from Bronze Age; especially two houses were interesting.

One house was a more than 50 meter long and 10m broad hall, more than 500 square meter was under roof. It is the largest house from Bronze Age from this period in Scandinavia. The region was an important area with a great activity. The house was divided in three rooms, the living room, the barn, the stable. The dating of the house was 1500-1330 BC. Charred corn (mostly wheat) and mold residues show that the lord of the house both mastered the hard bronze casting and was able to get hold of the coveted metal. 

Another huse was under a small gravehill, the house was 30 m long and a little more than 7 m broad. Rooms were divided like in the big house. The dating of this house was between 1320 and 1220 BC. The house lay here upon the hillside at the same time as the Skrydstrupgirl lived (she was buried in one of the great Bronze Age hills only 600 m southwest of this house). Maybe she lived in this house, if so it might have been her grandfather or great grandfather who built the great hall.

Source: National Museum, Copenhagen; professor Karin M. Fre;  professor Kristian Kristiansen, Gøteborgs Universitet, and wikipedia. 
photo: National Museum and wikipedia. 

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